The openSUSE community recently held two public sessions to review their 20202 End of Year survey. I attended those meetings and I wanted to share my takeaways with the Council. I think it’s helpful to see where our nearest relative is struggling and succeeding so we can take lessons and help them out. First of all, a lot of the issues they identified sound very familiar. (I also got this sense talking to an openSUSE Ambassador at SCALE last year.) The number one less is that distros are hard and community is hard and we are not alone in finding them hard.
Now for some more detail.
Documentation: hard. Right now they have documentation spread across the docs site and the wiki. It’s not obvious which wiki pages are current and which are obsolete. It’s also not obvious which wiki pages are official and which aren’t. Some people have suggested removing obsolete docs, but it’s not clear if people still need them or why. Someone said, and this is a direct quote: “The Arch Wiki is a bad example because it’s an extremely well-maintained wiki”. One person brought up how Fedora moved a lot of docs from the wiki to docs.fedoraproject.org and was impressed with the work we did there.
They also identified a problem of having too many “front doors.” There’s the wiki, opensuse.org, etc. It’s been suggested that they consolidate on get.opensuse.org. This page needs improvement, though. There’s no explanation of what the different options are, which can be confusing and off-putting for newcomers. I do like that you can get to all of the openSUSE variants easily from one place, though. I’d like for us to make progress on that with getfedora.
When it comes to marketing, the consensus was that they don’t emphasize the value proposition of openSUSE enough. In particular, openSUSE Tumbleweed is seen as unstable because it’s a rolling release, but it’s actually very stable. Most people who are at least passingly familiar with Linux know of Ubuntu and Red Hat, but openSUSE doesn’t register to most people.
They made a print magazine in partnership with Linux Magazine and that has been very well-received. But it’s a lot of investment of labor and money. Podcasts have been a good avenue for getting reviews and coverage these days. Someone remarked “whatever effort we put into marketing, it has to be sustained.” I agree. Marketing, more than most other activities, can’t be done in small chunks.
During the second meeting, they started talking about how they can compete against Ubuntu. My notes are pretty thin there, as I think they were missing the forest for the trees. Like Fedora, openSUSE doesn’t necessarily aim to dominate the market and sees cross-distro collaboration as a feature.
The survey itself
This is important to keep in mind for our own survey efforts. The survey wasn’t well-advertised. People heavily involved in the project weren’t aware that the survey was happening until it was over. They discussed a “force push” sort of mechanism, where the survey would be a notification on the desktop. There are technical ways to accomplish this, but I suspect it would be poorly-received by a significant portion of users.